An old concept to deal with infectious diseases is resulting in new changes across the globe. The One Health Initiative "seeks to promote,
improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species by enhancing cooperation and collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, other scientific health and environmental professionals and by promoting strengths in leadership and management to achieve these goals."
Throughout the 20th century, medicine has focused on specialization and advancement of specific skills to diagnosis and treat. But 61% of the infectious diseases effect both humans and non-humans, with new and frightening diseases emerging frequently. Most recent examples include the 2006 Bird Flu (H5N1), and 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1).
International organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) together envision a multi-disciplinary approach to infectious diseases. Individual Goals include
- Train our next generation of health care members to collaborate.
- Create a new organization called One Health Global Network (OHGN) to collect, and dissemination of information.
- One Health Initiative Website to demonstrate the success of a multi-disciplinary approach
- Expert support to help with countries with few resources to create within each country a team of experts to direct resources at emerging threats.
- Use existing programs and resources to ideally result in substantial health impact at very little cost.
The One Health Initiative recognizes that promoting animal health, results in better health for all living creatures. The successful eradication in 2010 of Cattle Plague or Rinderpest is an example of the success of the One Health Approach. Cattle Plague caused the death of 90-100% of the cattle exposed, and ravaged Europe and England for most of the 18th century. By recognizing the contagious nature of the disease, cattle movement was restricted to limit the spread of the disease. These methods eventually lead to improvement in limiting disease by vaccinating those exposed to the disease in surrounding communities.
Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 but the first successes in limiting this disease came through observing the similarities between human Smallpox and Cow Pox. Using this knowledge,Cowpox was used to vaccinate and protect people from Smallpox in the mid-1700's. (well before any understanding of bacteria and viruses).
While attending the American Veterinary Medical Association meeting in St. Louis in April 2011, I attended a series of meetings celebrating the 250 years of animal-related medical training. The first veterinary school was in Lyon, France and was established in 1761. This Sestercentennial Celebration is for me about the importance of pets in the lives of so many people (human-animal bond), and the role of veterinary epidemiologists in limiting diseases like salmonella, rabies, tuberculosis and the avian influenza.